In my current position at the University of Nebraska at Kearney I have the opportunity to direct graduate reading seminars. One of the best parts of directing these seminars is drawing up the required reading lists. In past seminars on the American West, 20th Century West, Native American History and other topics I am always careful to insert a book or two with borderlands or transnational foci.
Thus, when I was given the option to direct a couple seminars over the summer on whatever topics I wanted – I immediately proposed a full seminar on “American Borderlands.” I had a great group of students and reveled in the chance to build the reading list. For those considering building similar courses, here are the books we worked through.
On the “Southern Borderlands” we read 3 monographs, mixed with weekly portions of 2 anthologies:
- Barr, Juliana. Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands. The University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
- Mora, Anthony P. Border Dilemmas: Racial and National Uncertainties in New Mexico, 1848–1912. Duke University Press Books, 2011.
- Hernandez, Kelly Lytle. Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. 1st ed. University of California Press, 2010.
- Guy, Donna J., and Thomas E. Sheridan. Contested Ground: Comparative Frontiers on the Northern and Southern Edges of the Spanish Empire. University of Arizona Press, 1998.
- Truett, Samuel, Elliott Young, Karl Jacoby, Raúl Ramos, Bárbara Reyes, and Andres Reséndez. Continental Crossroads: Remapping U.S.-Mexico Borderlands History. Duke University Press Books, 2004.
On the “Northern Borderlands” we read 3 monographs and 1 anthology:
- Taylor, Alan. The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution. 1st ed. Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
- Chang, Kornel. Pacific Connections: The Making of the US-Canadian Borderlands. 1st ed. University of California Press, 2012.
- McManus, Sheila. The Line Which Separates: Race, Gender, and the Making of the Alberta-Montana Borderlands. University of Nebraska Press, 2005.
- Evans, Sterling. The Borderlands of the American and Canadian Wests: Essays on Regional History of the Forty-ninth Parallel. 1st ed. University of Nebraska Press, 2006.
Finally, we read 2 monographs and 1 anthology that feature multiple borders or transnational coverage:
- Johnson, Benjamin, and Andrew R. Graybill. Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories. Duke University Press Books, 2010.
- Graybill, Andrew R. Policing the Great Plains: Rangers, Mounties, and the North American Frontier, 1875-1910. University of Nebraska Press, 2007.
- Evans, Sterling C. Bound in Twine: The History and Ecology of the Henequen-Wheat Complex for Mexico and the American and Canadian Plains, 1880-1950. TAMU Press, 2007.
Student reactions to nearly all of the books were positive. They fostered some robust discussion and students consistently surprised me by pulling many themes from the books fully into the present for debate about contemporary events. All in all, it was an excellent course. Reviewing the list now, I can see some gaps in topics and regions – themes that weren’t covered or weren’t covered sufficiently. But, that is the nature of the beast and part of the fun – redrawing books lists, trying out new titles and scrapping others. (I am repeating a Native American history seminar in the Spring semester and swapped out almost 1/2 of the books that I used this semester! )
So what do your borderlanders have to say? What books have you used? Have any of these been on your lists? Are there others we should all consider adding next time we are drawing up book lists?
Ready, set, debate!